Facet joint injections deliver anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications directly into a damaged or irritated facet joint in the neck or back. This highly precise outpatient procedure, which is also known as a facet block, can effectively reduce painful inflammation in the spine. Many people consider facet joint injections after they are unable to find sufficient relief with other conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, medications and chiropractic manipulation.
What to expect after an injection
The effectiveness of facet joint injections depends on a number of individual factors. In general, acute pain tends to respond better to a facet block than chronic pain. Nevertheless, facet injections can be very effective for addressing pain associated with facet arthritis or inflammation, regardless of the amount of time the symptoms have been present.
If a facet block proves to be effective for you, here’s what you might expect:
- Shortly after an injection, you may find that your pain has gone away or is greatly reduced. This is a temporary effect of the local anesthetic and will last only for a few hours.
- By the next day, your original pain will likely return. Additionally, you may have some soreness at or around your injection site.
- Within another day or two, the anti-inflammatory medications should begin to take effect, at which point you should start to notice significant pain relief.
How long will the effects of a facet block last?
While there is no miracle cure for chronic back pain, facet joint injections can sometimes provide relief that lasts for up to several months. Additionally, if a targeted facet joint responds well to an injection, this means that the pain generator has been successfully identified. Then, if the pain later returns, other treatment options that target that specific facet joint, such as facet thermal ablation and minimally invasive spine surgery, may be recommended.
On the other hand, if you do not experience meaningful symptom relief after a facet joint injection, it is unlikely that the targeted facet joint is the cause of your pain. Your physician may recommend another diagnostic test, such as an imaging study, to identify the underlying source of your discomfort.
To find out if a facet joint injection is an appropriate option for you, contact your physician.